What Must Not Be, Is. What Is, Must Not Be.
I want to return here to a subject I raised earlier regarding the dubious prospects for the longevity of the human race, and perhaps for all life on this beautiful Earth. For although Life and the Earth have survived and overcome at least 5 previous global-scale crises or “extinction events” of a similar magnitude to the present one, it cannot be presumed from that past history that it will also survive a sixth. The new and differentiating factor is the colossal potentiality of the destructive power of technology, now enhanced in its destructive potency by Man’s seemingly incorrigible narcissism and idolatry, along with a corresponding diminished sense of responsibility.
For technology represents, in some ways, even the self-negation of Nature — the power of the laws of Nature turned destructively against Nature itself, something completely unthinkable — or at least unforeseen — by the founders of the Modern Era for whom the pursuit of power was mandated. Technology derives its efficacy from the laws of Nature, and is in that sense an offspring of Nature, but then works to subvert and displace the very Nature from which it derives its own being.
I want, therefore, to repeat here, and parse out in more detail, what I earlier described as “the most haunting words in all literature,” — Seth’s warnings in The Unknown Reality about the human prospect being perilous. New information — new insights — have come to me since I first posted those words and this new insight suggests a way beyond the gloomy prospects for a prospective terminal evolutionary dead-end for the human race and perhaps for the whole planet.
Ego consciousness must now be familiarized with its roots, or it will turn into something else. You are in a position where your private experience of yourself does not correlate with what you are told by your societies, churches, sciences, archaeologies, or other disciplines. Man’s “unconscious” knowledge is becoming more and more consciously apparent. This will be done under and with the direction of an enlightened and expanding egotistical awareness, that can organize the hereto neglected knowledge–or it will be done at the expense of the reasoning intellect, leading to a rebirth of superstition, chaos, and the unnecessary war between reason and intuitive knowledge.
When, at this point now, of mankind’s development, his emerging unconscious knowledge is denied by his institutions, then it will rise up despite those institutions, and annihilate them. Cult after cult will emerge, each unrestrained by the use of reason, because reason will have denied the existence of rampant unconscious knowledge, disorganized and feeling only its own ancient force.
If this happens, all kinds of old and new religious denominations will war, and all kinds of ideologies surface. This need not take place, for the conscious mind – basically, now — having learned to focus in physical terms, is meant to expand, to accept unconscious intuitions and knowledge, and to organize these deeply creative principles into cultural patterns…
I am saying that the individual self must become consciously aware of far more reality; that it must allow its recognition of identity to expand so that it includes previously unconscious knowledge. To do this you must understand, again, that man must move beyond the concepts of one god, one self, one body, one world, as these ideas are currently understood. You are now poised, in your terms, upon a threshold from which the race can go many ways. There are species of consciousness. Your species is in a time of change. There are potentials within the body’s mechanisms, in your terms not as yet used. Developed, they can immeasurably enrich the race, and bring it to levels of spiritual and psychic and physical fulfillment. If some changes are not made, the race as such will not endure.
Here, as such, is the real “existential threat”. I suspect that many, perhaps, don’t take seriously the warnings of a disembodied “spook” (or “energy personality essence” as Seth prefers to call himself), and they are probably justified in being cautious, wary, or skeptical — within reason. But it is precisely “within reason” that “embodied” others — Friedrich Nietzsche, Jean Gebser, Erich Kahler, Pitrim Sorokin, Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, Carl Jung, Sigmund Freud, etc — have insisted very much on the same dangers facing the human race. Therefore, we should examine in what way Seth’s warnings illuminate, and are illuminated by, these very human observers of the human prospect.
Ego consciousness must now be familiarized with its roots, or it will turn into something else.
This “something else”, I have suggested, may well be something like the “Borg” of Star Trek lore or the cyborgian. In any case, it would also be the end of the human race “as such”. Sex? There’s an app for that. Love? There’s an app for that, too. Friendship? There’s an app for that. It is completely the image of Nietzsche’s “Last Man“. That’s what it means for the ego-nature to become estranged from its roots. It no longer finds the sources of its own being and vitality within, but from without, in total identities custom-designed and “personalised”. This is already well-advanced. People expect to be made and remade by their environment, and their environment or milieux is the reality of the techno-corporate state, which was the implicit subject of the movie The Matrix.
That “ego-consciousness must now be familiarized with its roots” is the essential meaning, however, of the parable of The Prodigal Son who, at the lowest nadir of his existence, “came to remembrance” of himself — that is, of his roots. For Nietzsche, this root is the “Dionysian”, and the Dionysian corresponds to what Seth calls “Framework 2” or what the cultural philosopher Jean Gebser called “the ever-present origin” or “the archaic”. The search for roots outside ourselves is not just self-estrangement, deracination, and alienation. It is the sense of homelessness. It also gives absolute and totalitarian power to political, commercial, or religious powers and institutions.
The Canadian political philosopher and Nietzsche scholar, George Grant, once identified “homelessness” (or rootlessness) as the specific symptom of modern man’s nihilism. That is true enough as long as we don’t associate “home” with a specific time or place. A conservative who despised conservatism, and felt more at “home” himself with the socialists, he nonetheless failed to understand that “home” was Seth’s inner “root” or Gebser’s “ever-present origin”. He looked for man’s true “home” in a heritage, legacy, or tradition, in a nostalgia for a long lost past and Golden Age that has never actually existed for human beings.
“Roots” are not the beginning in the past, but the origin or source of life in the present and as presence. Likewise, the Catholic-oriented philosopher Simone Weil wrote a book called The Need for Roots. That title seems to answer Seth’s imperative for the ego to rediscover its roots in some tradition or antiquity. But, again, ideology interferes with consciousness. Seth’s “roots” are not in the past, but in the Here and Now, in the “Eternal Present”, as Rosenstock-Huessy once put it. Nietzsche’s formula for self-overcoming, “Become what you are!” is, in fact, a call to rediscover one’s roots — not in the past — but in the Now. The root and source of one’s being lie in the Now — in what Gebser called “the ever-present origin”.
“Ego consciousness must now be familiarized with its roots, or it will become something else”. There is, in that statement, something reminiscent of Nietzsche’s remark that “Ever since Copernicus, man has been rolling from the centre toward X“. That rolling from the centre (the source, origin, or “root”) toward “X” finds its echo in W.B. Yeats’ poem “The Second Coming“,
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
However powerful and meaningful the poem is and remains for many people, Yeats was a reactionary, and still did not understand the the Falconer or “centre”, as root and anchor, lies not in the past, but is the Here and Now. That time is an illusion of our heads is why Gebser’s “origin and presence” (or, equivalently, Self and Ego) is translated sensually and conceptually into beginnings and endings. We are, in that sense, the perverse creatures who must take time to understand that time is an illusion of our own making, as the “disembodied voice” complained to Nietzsche as recorded in the last post on “Time and Nietzsche“.
“Progression is also distantiation”, or so Jean Gebser remarked in The Ever-Present Origin. That is, “progress” is ambiguous. The “distantiation” that Gebser is referring to is the distantiation of the Prodigal Son — it is a psychic, not essentially a temporal or spatial, distantiation of the Ego from its vital centre, “home” or “roots”.
Perhaps this understanding will provide insight into don Juan’s statement to Castaneda, that a man of knowledge can be at home anywhere he finds himself, because he is rooted in confident knowledge that the source of his being is in the Here and Now, and not in some other space or some other time.
I have gone to quite some length into unwrapping the significance of the first sentence of Seth’s statement. It seemed to me necessary. I will have to go further in future posts to explain why the rest of Seth’s statement is so profound; why it is essential to understand the underlying currents and processes that are not made fully explicit in it. For there can be no “self-overcoming” without insight into the basic delusional nature of time.
Nietzsche once wrote that “we want to be the poets of our own lives”. He was faulted for being narcissistic because of that. That judgement against Nietzsche itself, however, arises from narcissism. Nietzsche knew that the true roots of our identity lie in the present, and not in the past. We are not determined by the past unless we allow ourselves to be determined. He, like Gebser and like Seth, knew the difference between “origin” and “beginning”. This realisation, alone, is sufficient to provide a basis for “the free spirit”.